The advantages of designing for accessibility

I was reading an article on better website design for accessibility the other day, and it occurred to me that almost all the recommendations were good ones for users without disabilities too.

Even better, they’re good for search engines …so what’s not to like?

Here then are some of the accepted design aspects which should be considered if your website is to be helpful to users with visual or motor disabilities.

Presentation of content is perhaps the big one. A good start is to break up long paragraphs of content.

The first newspaper I ever worked as a sub-editor on had a default of one sentence per paragraph. That may seem extreme, but it read well to everyone.

Nice spacing between paragraphs helps too. Visually impaired readers can zoom in or enlarge text, but they can’t change the paragraphing, or spacing.

Have a read of the W3C guidelines on the subject.

Does your site support keyboard navigation? If you have a form to fill in, can you navigate around the fields with the tab key, and submit the form with the return key? Not everyone can use a mouse.

Do selected fields and buttons have a clear ‘focus state’ – that is, are they visually highlighted as being the selected ones?

Do your images have helpful ‘alt text’? Is there text in your images that isn’t repeated as machine-readable text?

Is the colour contrast always good? Are you using colour alone to differentiate objects?

I could go on, and there’s a lot of reading around the subject which we can all do. The important thing is not to be led by inconsiderate design trends, but to consider simplicity above all else.

That way, everyone can win.